Top Chefs 2022: Robert McDonald


Cityview 2022 Top Chefs 1st Runner Up

Offering fine dining in Bearden, Burleson Brands’ Bistro by the Tracks offers a unique mix of French-inspired contemporary dishes and Southern fare. Heading up the kitchen and culinary artistry is Chef Robert McDonald III, a more than two-decade-long member of the local culinary community.

A Knoxville native, McDonald grew up learning the flavors of the region, his origins as a chef dating back to his days under mentor Jeff Patton at the former Creamery Park Grille in Fountain City. Yet even after all these years, those early lessons in flavor stay with him.

“I go after it,” he says. “I find the unusual combinations, and I find out how I can bring that balance and bring that punch at the same time.” This dedication to flavor offers him flexibility with ingredients as he finds the perfect profile for each dish. Currently, his favorite ingredient is lemongrass, but coriander and hot chili pepper will always be part of his toolkit.

You can count on his dishes to include local seasonal flavor, somehow always finding a way to blend uniqueness and familiarity all on the same plate, as demonstrated in his Top Chefs menu. McDonald’s personality shines through the food he makes and within the kitchen, citing his two hands and tastebuds as his most valuable tools.

While preparing flavorful dishes for restaurant-goers, McDonald sometimes forgets the last meal he’s had. However, this bustling lifestyle is worth it because of the memories and community that can be made in the kitchen. McDonald looks fondly on many moments with other chefs throughout his career. “Some have become lifelong friends and mentors,” he says. “And those memories I will take with me through every kitchen in every walk of life that I go from here on out.”


2nd Place Winner

Tempura Lobster with White Chocolate and Chamomile over Farm Greens. Paired with a 2017 Martinelli Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast.


2nd Place Winner

Filet of Beef served with Black Beans and Chili Consomme. Paired with a 2015 Martinelli Syrah, Russian River Valley.


Chocolate Pâte à Choux puff pastry. Paired with a 2020 Martinelli Zinfindel, Russian River Valley.

Overall Experience – 1st Place Winner


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